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Global Internet Freedom Continues To Decline As Surveillance Increases

Image via LibertyNation

There's nearly 8 billion people in the world. A little over half of them have access to the internet. Social media was intended to be a tool that would connect the world. While it has certainly done so, a recent report from Freedom House details how social media has also been used against citizens.

While a report wasn't needed to determine governments are using social media to spy on its citizens, the findings of the Freedom on the Net report are still alarming. Freedom House, a non-profit funded by the U.S. government, reveals internet freedom declined for the ninth-consecutive year. The decline was attributed to increased election interference and government surveillance.

Nearly 3 billion people are now being surveilled by their governments and law enforcement. "Governments are using social media to collect and analyze vast amounts of personal data on entire populations," Mike Abramowitz, president of Freedom House said. "Many employ artificial intelligence to identify potential threats and silence opposition. As this monitoring technology has become less expensive, a growing number of law enforcement agencies are using mass surveillance with little oversight or accountability."

The report, which studied 65 countries around the world, found that China is the worst in terms of internet freedom while Iceland is the best. In the U.S., internet freedom fell for the third-consecutive year. Out of the 87% of the world's internet user population studied, the report found only 20% is considered "free."

"Governments and populist movements are using social media to manipulate elections on a grand scale, and governments are using technology to monitor their own citizens on an unprecedented scale," Abramowitz said.

71% of internet users live in countries where individuals have been arrested or imprisoned for posting political, social, or religious issues. 65% live in countries where individuals have been attacked or killed for their online activities since June 2018. 56% live in countries where political, social, or religious content has been blocked.

Removing yourself from social media is certainly the most logical choice if you don't want to be subject to this. However, doing so is very difficult in this day and age. Unfortunately, the these trends are unlikely to reverse course anytime soon as social media companies continue to gain power and become more intertwined with governments.

Leftover Crumbs

  • What will they call it? According to a new EU draft document, the European Central Bank should consider its own public digital currency. The document also urges nations in the EU to have a unified approach to cryptocurrencies, even banning those it deems "too high risk." The document said "The ECB and other EU central banks could usefully explore the opportunities as well as challenges of issuing central bank digital currencies including by considering concrete steps to this effect."

  • Thanks but no thanks. India has declined to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which would have formed a trade pact covering roughly one-third of the world's gross domestic product. India's hesitation to join the pact has been one of the roadblocks in the negotiations which have gone on since 2013. The deal would've formed a trade pact between the ten countries in ASEAN as well as their largest trading partners - China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India. "This reflects both our assessment of the current global situation as well as of the fairness and balance of the agreement," said Vijay Thakur Singh, a diplomat in charge of East Asian relations for India.

  • Another win for corporate America. The Securities and Exchange Commission is set to propose a limit on shareholders' ability to push for changes at corporations on issues such as executive compensation. The SEC will reportedly vote to raise the re-submission thresholds for motions shareholders file on company ballots. The current thresholds have been in place since 1954.

  • Maybe they shouldn't disclose they're investors. Goldman Sachs is the lead investor in a $50 million funding round in Deserve, a startup that offers credit cards to nontraditional consumers. The company, which uses all the buzzwords such as machine learning and data, offers credit cards to people with little credit history and other deficiencies - typically younger people. Deserve's CEO Kalpesh Kapadia said "There’s a need for a modern, mobile-first, digital-first, highly configurable solution that’s completely in the cloud."

  • Would they still have one on every corner? Walgreens Boots Alliance has reportedly explored the possibility of going private, hiring investment bank Evercore Partners to determine if a deal is possible. The company has a market capitalization of about $55 billion with $17 billion in debt. If a deal were to happen, it would reportedly take a few private equity firms to join forces in what would be the biggest leveraged buyout in history. Walgreens declined to comment on the rumor.